Scene setup: Jill Donahue has tumbled through time by way of a magical dragon tapestry she found in a strange vintage clothing shop. After landing in a medieval village, the peasants decide to sacrifice her to the local dragon instead of one of their own. At this point--even though she’s witnessed the fire-breathing dragon transform into a very real, very naked man before her eyes--Jill is still in complete denial of exactly where and when she is.
“So, what’s your name?” the maid asked.
Baelin returned to stand by the fire, the dancing flames holding his attention as memories of the life he once had drifted out of reach just as the rising smoke disappeared into the rocks high overhead.
“I was once called Baelin of Gosforth.” He looked down at her where she sat. “Now I am only called Dragon. Beast. Devil.”
The girl averted her eyes and ran her finger around the rim of her goblet. “I see. How about if I just call you Baelin?”
“That would please me greatly.”
Setting her wine down beside her, the maid stood and held out her hand to him. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Baelin of Gosforth. I’m Jill of Richmond.”
He looked at her outstretched hand, surprised she would offer it to him when it was no longer necessary to suffer his touch. He took her delicate fingers in his and bowed over her hand, lightly brushing the smooth knuckles with a kiss.
“I am honored, Lady Jill.”
She smiled at him as he straightened. “Wow, you don’t see that much anymore.”
“See what, my lady?”
“Never mind.” She resumed her seat and he moved to sit on the furs on the opposite side of the fire. “And it’s just Jill. You don’t need to ‘lady’ me.”
“No matter your station before, as long as you are under my protection, I shall treat you with the respect and esteem a well-bred lady deserves.”
“Well, that’s very formal of you. Ms. Manners would certainly give you a gold star.” She picked up her wine and fingered the hammered design on the side of the goblet. “So, how about telling me exactly what the heck is going on around here?”
Baelin stared into the flames. How much to tell her? For the moment, she seemed calm. Dare he risk upsetting her again? The truth was more than most of the maids could grasp.
“Perhaps you should rest and I will explain all to you in the morn.”
“No.” She sent a stern look his way. “I think I’d like to hear it now. As you can tell, I have nothing better to do at the moment.”
“Very well.” Baelin took a deep swallow of wine before beginning his tale. “When I was a young knight, I was cursed by the Dark Witch.”
Lady Jill blinked twice, then shook her head. “Wait. A witch? As in the spell-casting, broomstick-riding variety?”
“She has servants to sweep her hall but aye, she is a sorceress, with the gift of spells.”
“Her warriors captured me in battle and when I refused to become her...servant, she placed a curse on me, turning me into the very creature I hunted.”
“And I’m guessing that would be dragons?”
Baelin nodded. “The Dark Witch has found a way to hold sway over dragons, using them against mortal men in her fight for control over the land.”
Lady Jill looked uneasy. “And do you believe you’re under this witch’s ‘sway’ now?”
“Nay, she only has power over me when I am in dragon form and within the boundaries of her realm.”
Her gaze darted to the wings folded against his back. “But you’re still part dragon right now.”
“Aye, ‘tis true that in human form I still retain some of the dragon’s power but until the next full moon, she has no control over me.”
“I see.” Lady Jill rotated the goblet between her palms. Baelin sat silent, waiting for the questions he knew would come. “So how long have you been this way?”
“Two hundred and sixteen winters.”
“Winters? You mean years? As in 216 years? Amazing.” She made a clucking sound with her tongue. “You don’t look a day over thirty-five.”
“I only appear that way. In truth, I was born in the year of our Lord, 978.”
Lady Jill held up her hand and shook her head. “Hold it. Stop the video and hit rewind. Did you just say you were born in 978?”
She stared at him for the longest time before speaking. “My God, you’re serious. You really believe this. Everything you just said--you actually believe it’s true.” She shook herself as if a sudden chill had swept into the cave. “And I can’t believe I’m even having this conversation. It’s gotta be the wine going to my head.”
She set her empty goblet down and stood. “Look, you seem like a nice guy and I’m sure when they get you back on your medication, everything will be fine.” She rubbed at her forehead as she began to pace. “Shoot, maybe I need to be put on heavy meds. This is a warning sign of an impending mental breakdown if I ever saw one.”
She walked back and forth by the fire, speaking more to herself than to him. “You know, I’ve seen some weird stuff in my life. People do strange things to their bodies all the time--full body tattoos, piercings to body parts that should never be pierced, even metal balls implanted under their skin. Heck, I wouldn’t put it past someone to have bat wings surgically attached to their back.” She waved her hand in his direction.
“The medieval village...well, I’ve heard those reenactors can take their parts a little too seriously. That’s easily explained.” She stopped, looked pointedly at him, then began walking again. “I’ll admit, the dragon part, that’s not so easy to reason away.”
She suddenly stopped and stared at a shield propped against the side of the cave. “I know. I bet this is all part of some sex slave ring where sicko guys get their kicks living out their Dungeon and Dragon fantasies.”
Baelin watched in stunned silence as Lady Jill’s eyes grew round as goose eggs and she covered her mouth with her hand as if to hold back words too incredible to utter.
“Oh God, that crazy saleslady is probably some kind of pseudo-madam sex slave trader. I knew it smelled weird in that place. I bet she drugged me and sold me into some kind of warped, medieval role-playing sexcapade.”
Spinning in a circle, she glanced around the cave. “Yes, that has to be how I got here. And the drugs would explain the flying dragon hallucination. It all makes perfect sense in a weird, demented way.”
Lady Jill finally stopped on the opposite side of the fire and eyed him with suspicion. “You’re not going to dress up in a chain mail diaper and have me spank you while you call me ‘mommy’, are you?”
Baelin had never been so confused in his life. The woman chattered so fast, it was almost as if she spoke a foreign tongue. All he could do was shake his head and hope it was the response she wanted.